Step One: Make merry in your mind.
Store up happy feelings before gathering with your family. Consider what the holidays mean to you.Play holiday music. Decorate to your heart’s content. Shop for a few special gifts.Take the time to set yourself up for a good time.
Here are a few ways to put yourself in a jolly mood.
1. Mentally prepare.
Your family is what it is.
Visualize the inevitable annoying conversations or criticism.
Develop a healthy desire to let things lie.
2. Keep your expectations realistic.
Avoid hoping the season will bring Hallmark movie resolutions to old problems.
Attempting to make everything Pinterest-perfect will only add to the tension.
Simply accept some of your family’s messiness.
3. Be aware of your thoughts.
It’s easy to get sucked into old family patterns.
Recognize the problems that will arise.
Challenge the negative thinking that can come between you an your loved ones.
Step Two: Greet the season with diplomacy.
If conflict is a routine part of your family gatherings, communication breakdowns, childish meltdowns, and veiled putdowns may come with the territory.
To avoid conflict, a peace-keeping family relations policy may be useful to keep arguments at a minimum and minimize misunderstandings.
1. Remain as neutral as possible.
To avoid conflict, minimize talk of politics, religion, and lifestyle choices.
When things get tense, set aside differences, and do your best to remain calm and mature.
Early in the conversation, head off a persistent, troublemaking relative by changing the subject, directing him or her to another person, or heading for another room.
2. Be inclusive and compassionate.
Acknowledge that the holidays are stressful for everyone.
For some, holidays are filled with nostalgia. For others the season is very painful.
Try to recognize that your family brings varying experiences to the holiday table.
Extend as much grace and open-minded consideration as you can.
3. Engage thoughtfully.
Prioritize tact, fight to remain positive, and pick your battles.
If things get ugly or abusive, communicate clear boundaries.
Reserve the right to walk away if they are violated.
Step Three. Set limits. Don’t let the lights, lists, or labor kill your holiday spirit.
Gathering, hosting, or traveling can take its toll on you physically and mentally.
Take time to rest and regroup when you feel rundown or irritated.
You’ll be less likely to take the bait when approached by a critical or confrontational relative or instigate conflict out of crankiness or exhaustion.
You may also find it prudent to set up an established “safe zone,” or private getaway from pushy relatives. It may be a needed escape when frustrations or tensions arise.
Finally, it may be wise to set time limits on family visits. 2 or 3 hours together may be more than enough to celebrate the season before heading home.
The holidays are hectic and fraught with traditions and expectations.
Many of which may or may not make for joy and peace.
However, remember that soon decorations will be stored and the feasting complete.
Try to be grateful for a season with a little less drama.
And one more year, spent with the people you love.